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Uplifting Leadership

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Over the next few days I will have the privileged of attending the Ulead conference in beautiful Banff, Alberta and one of the keynote speakers today was Andy Hargreaves. In his writing, Hargreaves has classified educational as having moved through four distinct periods, each with its own emphasis or approach to school leadership. His discussion will be useful when considering transformative leadership for blended learning. Hargreaves makes a distinction between each period of leadership by the roles that government, leaders, teachers and students play in learning. In the first period of leadership teachers were autonomous leaders in their own, often very small or one room schools. In the second period, school leaders became managers, concerned with accountability, standardization of both curriculum and assessment. This period took the autonomy away from teachers in an attempt to regulate learning and test scores. In the most recent, third period, leaders have shifted their focus to 21st century skills, performance, human capital, self-efficacy, targets, and technology. Strong and distributed leadership has been embraced by many learning organizations as a means to build human capital and increase performance.

Hargreaves believes that there is great potential in distributed leadership but warns that is must be taken as more that simply an opportunity for teachers to participate in decision making. Unfortunately, distributed leadership at its worst can be a way for leaders to offload responsibilities to teachers without giving teachers any ownership for decision-making. Distributed leadership at its best could and should create a culture and a climate where teachers feel they can bring innovation into their practice without waiting for an invitation or permission. This distributed approach to leadership has the potential to “raise institutional awareness, build support, and cultivate collaborative leadership” (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008, p. 21). In a distributed leadership environment, teachers feel able to connect and collaborate to improve the learning outcomes of their students without waiting for instruction or directive from their leaders. As Garrison and Vaughan state, “Transformation must be driven by the need and demand for higher quality learning experiences” (p.4, 2008). Distributed leadership offer the hope for transformation where leaders see themselves as lead learners responsible for setting a direction, inspiring and supporting their teachers to design learning tasks that are of high quality.

In his presentation, a fourth way to leadership was offered by Hargreaves, in which the role of a leader moves beyond distributed to uplifting leadership. This fourth way of leadership relies on collective efficacy, participation and collaboration. Hargreaves describes uplifting leadership as having the following set of qualities. Uplifting leaders will set the direction for their organization by dreaming with determination. They will set the course based on clear, sound and defensible research and practice. Uplifting leaders are creative in their approach to system level change and work with the forces that may be perceived as resistant or working against them, turning perceived weakness into strengths. These leaders understand that there is great benefit in collaboration and they both push and pull their teachers to create communities of practice. Uplifting leaders do not use data to hold teachers accountable but instead measure with meaning to assure their various publics. Uplifting leaders understand that innovation must be undertaken in a way that is disciplined in order to manage and sustain growth as well as to reflect on practice and the impact that innovation has on learning. Uplifting leaders find opportunities that others have missed including embracing change even when things are succeeding. But most importantly, uplifting leaders know that their role is “to serve those who follow as well as, if not better than, they serve. Finally, and perhaps above all, remember that in all its forms, leadership without ongoing personal transformation is little more than management” (Workman & Clevelland-Innes, 2012, p. 323). Hargreaves agrees that in order to have transformational leadership, “we uplift the people we serve by uplifting the people who serve them.”

Hargreaves, A. (2015). Uplifting Leadership – Keynote ULead2015

Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. (2008). Leadership, policy, and organizational change (unpublished). Blended Learning in Higher Education.San Francisco : Jossey-Bass. PDF Format

Workman, T., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2012). Leadership, personal transformation, and management. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 13(4), 313-323. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1383/2329

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